'Biography' spotlights Liza, from A to Z

Unlike the vast majority of celebrity profiles that simply reiterate the obvious and belabor the hideous, tonight's two-hour "Biography" (7 p.m., A&E;) taught me many things I did not know and reminded me of other things I had forgotten about Liza Minnelli. This troubled and talented singer, dancer and actress has spent the better part of five decades trying to get out from under the shadow of her doomed mother.

The daughter of Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, Liza made her screen appearance as a toddler in the 1949 "In the Good Old Summertime." Unfortunately, Minnelli explains, the Hollywood staff that costumed her in 19th-century finery forgot to provide underwear, and she felt decidedly cranky while being held aloft by family friend Van Johnson. In a remarkable clip from the old Jack Paar show, we watch Liza make her TV singing debut -- introduced not as herself, but as an Armenian gypsy girl whose name turned out to be an anagram of "Judy Garland."

This superior "Biography" is filled with informative and painful recollections from Minnelli as well as legions of friends and admirers.

Having won a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar before turning 30, Minnelli has had a decidedly bumpy second act. Her Scorsese-directed musical "New York, New York" faded from memory almost as quickly as its title song became known as Frank Sinatra's signature tune. Her spirited performance in "Arthur" was overshadowed by those of Dudley Moore and John Gielgud. And, of course, there were the frequent visits to rehab clinics and her recent freakish marriage to her controlling producer. While these difficult times are chronicled here, this "Biography" accentuates the positive and recalls Minnelli's gifts as she prepares to make yet another revival in a life that has become defined by stumbles and comebacks.

A repeat "Biography" of Cher follows at 9 p.m.

  • "NBA Hardwood Classics: The Player and the Coach" (7 p.m., History) recalls the relationship between Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach and his star Bill Russell, and the team that won 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Double Dutch, divinely inspired, on "Joan of Arcadia" (7 p.m., CBS).
  • Harm and Mac investigate an electrician's shocking death on "JAG" (8 p.m., CBS).
  • Scheduled on "On the Record with Bob Costas" (10 p.m., HBO): Tom Brokaw and Kevin Costner.

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